Lack of Sleep Causes More Problems than You Think
March is National Sleep Awareness Month, and the National Sleep Foundation’s Sleep Awareness Week is March 11 to 17, 2018. What better time to talk about how improving your sleep can improve your health and happiness?
First, let’s go over some sleep-related statistics and facts from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American Sleep Association, so you get a better understanding of the far-reaching effects of not getting enough sleep:
- 50-70 million U.S. adults suffer from a sleep disorder.
- 3% of U.S. adults report that they get less than seven hours of sleep during a typical 24-hour period (adults should get seven to nine hours of sleep every night).
- Adults who sleep for less than seven hours per 24-hour period are more likely to be obese, physically inactive, and current smokers than people who sleep for seven hours or more per night.
- Adults who sleep for less than seven hours per 24-hour period are more likely to report having 10 chronic health conditions than people who sleep for seven hours or more per night: heart attack, coronary heart disease, stroke, asthma, COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease), cancer, arthritis, depression, chronic kidney disease, and diabetes).
Bottom-line, a lack of sleep causes a long list of problems that can become chronic and life-changing conditions! If you’re not sleeping well, it’s time to make some changes.
Sleep Disorder Causes and Symptoms
If you have trouble falling asleep, staying asleep, and getting back to sleep after waking up (either during the night or if you wake up too early), then you could have a sleep disorder. The same is true if you continually feel like you haven’t gotten enough sleep.
There are a variety of causes for sleep disorders. A number of these causes can be solved with simple behavior modification while others could require help from a medical professional and possibly medication. Some of the most common causes of sleep problems include:
- Consuming too much caffeine, especially within eight hours of bedtime
- Drinking alcohol or smoking before bedtime
- Trying to sleep in a noisy environment
- Emotional stress, depression, anxiety, or the manic phase of bipolar disorder
- An over-active thyroid gland
- Chronic pain
- Heart or lung conditions that cause shortness of breath when lying down
- Side effects from medications
- Changes in the sleep/wake schedule or an inconsistent sleep/wake schedule
- Restless leg syndrome (RLS) and periodic limb movements in sleep (PLMS)
- Sleep apnea
How to Improve Your Sleep with Self-Care
As you can see from this list of causes, there is no single solution to sleep problems, but there are some self-care steps you can take to improve your situation. Here are some simple changes you can make to your behaviors to get a better night’s sleep:
- Avoid caffeine for at least eight hours before bedtime.
- Consume no more than one alcoholic drink with or after dinner.
- Avoid using electronic devices – such as your phone, laptop, or computer – before bedtime and in the middle of the night. The blue light emitted from these devices negatively affects your circadian rhythm and your sleep.
- Don’t smoke, and avoid nicotine in all forms.
- Avoid taking long naps during the day.
- Get regular exercise, but don’t exercise for at least a few hours before bedtime.
- Keep your bedroom quiet and dark.
- Set and keep a consistent sleep/wake schedule.
- Follow a consistent bedtime routine.
- Don’t eat a large meal for at least three hours before bedtime. If you’re hungry before bed, eat a light snack such as a handful of nuts or fruit with yogurt.
Dr. David J. Earnest, a professor at the Texas A&M Health Science Center College of Medicine, studies circadian rhythms, which is the human body’s master clock (yes, you really do have an internal clock), and he has said, “How much you sleep and the quality of your sleep can have a tremendous impact on your overall health. We’re starting to recognize that sleep deprivation and disorders are more prevalent than any other health disorder that affects Americans.”
If you’re like the one in 10 Americans who suffer from insomnia or another sleep disorder, or you’re one of the one in three Americans who gets fewer than seven hours of sleep per night, then make some of the changes described above, and if necessary, seek help from a health coach, wellness coach, behavioral health coach, or medical professional. Trust me, you’ll feel happier and healthier than ever when you prioritize your sleep!
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All information contained on this website are for informational and educational purposes only, and is not intended to be taken as medical or other health advice. You should always seek the advice of your doctor or a qualified medical professional. IN THE CASE OF A MEDICAL EMERGENCY OR SUICIDAL THOUGHTS, IMMEDIATELY CALL 911.
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